Overview and Background
Budget 2022 announced funding for the launch of a new Equitable Access to Reading Program that will begin in 2024-25. The new Program is intended to “boost the production of accessible format reading materials through innovative partnerships”. The overall goal is to “promote the economic and social inclusion of persons with print disabilities and help to create a barrier-free Canada”. The budget also included some funding for the Employment and Social Development Canada Office of Disabilities to undertake a review and establish the parameters of the new Program.
This new Program announced in Budget 2022 aligns with recommendations that CELA and NNELS had made to the federal government for a solution to long term sustainable funding for both organizations to provide equitable access to reading for people with print disabilities in Canada. In July of 2022, NNELS and CELA submitted a 9-page brief on our recommendations for the parameters of the new Equitable Access to Reading Program. This brief was also used as the basis for CELA and NNELS’s joint pre-budget submission in August 2022 and the subsequent pre-budget consultation in February of 2023.
With this in mind, NNELS and CELA invite all stakeholders in the equitable access to reading landscape including our users, our member libraries, disability organizations, service providers, industry and more to read our joint recommendations that we have made to the federal government for the parameters of the new Program. We hope that this can help to inform your own responses to the consultation process and that, as a diverse stakeholder community, we can find common ground for the new Equitable Access to Reading Program.
Summary of Recommendations
Our recommendations for the Equitable Access to Reading Program will ensure equitable access to reading services and information for the approximately 3 million people across Canada with print disabilities, a group that faces economic and social barriers that industry-based production and distribution will not be able to fully address. The work and services recommended under the new Program will complement the work done by industry to produce and distribute born-accessible materials.
NNELS and CELA are advocating that the new Program support 6 key principles:
- All content must be made accessible to a diverse community of people with print disabilities.
- People with print disabilities face economic and social barriers that industry-based production and distribution will not be able to fully address.
- Support for multiple formats, including braille, is essential for an equitable reading landscape.
- Access to published works for people with print disabilities internationally through the Marrakesh Treaty should be facilitated by organizations that are independent from industry.
- Accessibility expertise and equitable reading must be supported and made available independent of market forces.
- Mainstream reading systems, tools, and devices can be complicated and expensive, and support for the provision of accessible services will continue to be essential.
We are also recommending the following structure for the Program:
- $7 million each year for 3 years starting in 2024-25
- Be made available to Canadian not-for-profit organizations
- 75% of the funds should be supplied to those groups that can provide national accessible reading services in both official languages to people with print disabilities across Canada and who have proven capacity and expertise to deliver on these services
- 25% of the funds may be used for smaller, more local organizations who can participate regionally or at a smaller scale in providing service in this sector that will complement the work of the national accessible reading services
- Encourage innovative partnerships with organizations across the landscape
- Ensure the work and services funded are informed by people with print disabilities
Please see the following additional documentation for further information. NNELS and CELA have also submitted a Pre-Budget Submission in August 2023 for Budget 2024. We will provide a link below to that document when it becomes available, hopefully in the Fall of 2023.